Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Jane T. Merritt

Committee Member

Annette Finley-Croswhite

Committee Member

Carolyn Lawes

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 A87 2009


Throughout historical scholarship and popular memory, Presbyterians have been considered one of the more radical elements in the colonial American population because of ethnic background, theological ideas relating to the Scottish Enlightenment, and dissenting Protestants' position in opposition to Church-State structures. This study will examine the political theories, activities, and results of the New Light Presbyterians in Virginia's Tidewater and Piedmont regions between 1740 and 1780.

Chapter I describes trends in the historiographical literature of the Great Awakening, religion and the American Revolution, and more specifically, the politics of Presbyterianism in colonial Virginia, in addition to outlining the origins of the revivals which resulted in the formation of the Hanover Presbytery and defining their status as dissenters against Virginia's established religion, the Church of England. Chapter II examines the early leaders of the Hanover Presbyterians, especially the Reverend Samuel Davies, and the extent to which their lobbying for religious toleration presented a challenge to the authority of local ruling elite and British royal officials. Chapter III discusses the reaction of the Hanover Presbytery to the independence movement and the role those dissenters played in the process of separating church from state in newly independent Virginia.


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